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Dental Disease in Cats: Everything you Need to Know

Katelyn Son
By Katelyn Son
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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What is Dental Disease in Cats?

What You Need To Know About Dental Disease in Cats

Dental disease in cats is an umbrella term that covers various cat teeth issues and conditions.

According to veterinarians from the Cornell University of Veterinary Medicine, beyond the age of 4, between 50% to 90% of cats suffer from some form of dental disease. Dental disease in cats leads to chronic pain, irritability, and even tooth loss.

What is the Most Common Dental Disease in Cats?

Tooth resorption and periodontal disease are the most common dental health issues in cats. Let’s take a close look at each.

  • Periodontal Disease. Periodontitis or periodontal disease starts with gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). The gums become red, swollen, and painful due to the presence of plaque and tartar buildup, which pressure the gum line, causing it to recede. Over time, gum disease turns into periodontal disease.
  • Tooth Resorption. Between 30% – 70% of cats suffer from signs of this dental problem. Tooth resorption refers to the process of tooth damage that starts at the tooth base (tooth root) and then slowly spreads outward, damaging the entire tooth. The result is a loose tooth which often results in tooth loss.
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What Are the Signs of Dental Disease in Cats?

Multiple clinical signs are associated with dental disease in cats. Here are some of the telltale signs to keep an eye on:

  • Swollen Gums: This is the first sign of developing gingivitis in cats. Swollen gums indicate damage to the gingiva.
  • Redness of Gums: This is an associated symptom with the swelling of gum which together indicates the onset of gingivitis in cats.
  • Bleeding at the Gingival Margin: This symptom is only seen in severe cases of gingivitis, and your cat will be in pain and discomfort if this happens.
  • Excessive Drooling: This can very well indicate damage or discomfort within your cat’s mouth. Excessive drooling can indicate gingivitis or periodontitis.
  • Loss of Appetite: If you notice your cat’s losing interest in eating, dental disease can be one of the causes. This is because eating is painful.
  • Chewing on One Side: This clearly indicates tooth damage or dental disease in your cat.
  • Halitosis: This is the clinical term for bad breath. Since gingivitis and thereafter, periodontitis is a bacterial infection, bad breath is one of the major symptoms.
  • Pawing at the Mouth: If you haven’t seen any of the above signs, but your cat is continuously pawing at their mouth, it can indicate irritation due to dental disease.

What Causes Dental Disease in Cats?

Multiple factors contribute to the development of dental diseases in cats. Some of the underlying causes include:

  • Genetics. This is a cause that cannot be prevented. Many cats inherit dental diseases, such as improper bite, because of their breadlines. These diseases can be cured with proper medical procedures in some cases.
  • Food Type. Unhealthy food habits are one of the major causes of dental diseases in cats. If your cat is on a diet of unhealthy kibbles and sugary treats, it increases the probability of harmful bacteria infecting your cat’s mouth. Also, cats eating soft food are more likely to develop problems compared to cats eating dry food.
  • Poor Oral Hygiene. Poor hygiene compromises oral health and results in plaque and tartar buildup, which are the foundation for most dental diseases.
  • Infectious Diseases. Sometimes contagious diseases can be responsible for dental issues. Such conditions include feline leukemia (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and calicivirus.
  • Systemic Conditions. Systemic conditions can also be the culprit for dental disease in cats. Common examples are kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, and certain autoimmune problems.

Is Dental Disease in Cats Fatal?

What You Need To Know About Dental Disease in Cats

Yes, dental disease in cats can be fatal.

To be more specific, dental diseases are not directly life-threatening. However, if left untreated, they can have severe and potentially life-threatening consequences.

For example, the bacteria from tooth abscesses can travel into distant organs, causing heart or kidney disease. These diseases can be fatal.

How Can I Treat My Cat’s Dental Disease at Home?

Although dental disease in cats cannot be “cured” at home, it can be prevented with the proper steps. Here are some home care tips for dental health:

  • Mouth Rinses. Use a veterinarian-recommended dental wash or water additive to rinse your cat’s mouth after every meal or once daily to prevent tartar buildup.
  • Teeth Brushing. This is the most important part of the cat’s oral care. Daily brushing your cat’s teeth ensures there is no bacterial buildup that can affect the gingiva.
  • Dental Chews. Several chewable treats promote oral health in cats. These treats improve your cat’s dental strength while clearing the teeth of any tartar buildup.

What do Vets do for Dental Diseases in Cats?

No matter the type of dental disease in cats, the treatments can only be done under veterinary supervision. The vet will perform an oral examination and take dental x-rays to diagnose the issue and establish the treatment plan.

Following are the most common treatment options veterinarians do in cases of cats’ dental diseases.

  • Plaque prevention. If the dental disease is diagnosed before the onset or right at the onset, then prevention is possible. For example, in the early stages of gingivitis, veterinarians recommend a plaque prevention gel to deter further disease development.
  • Tartar Removal. This refers to the supervised removal of tartar from your cat’s teeth using a metallic scraper or ultrasound scaler. This can reverse the dental disease if periodontitis hasn’t occurred yet.
  • Tooth Extraction. In the late stages of any dental disease, tooth extraction becomes the only way of treatment. Veterinarians perform tooth extraction of all the affected teeth to ensure that the tooth rot or abscesses don’t spread further.

What is the Best Way to Prevent Dental Disease in Cats?

What You Need To Know About Dental Disease in Cats

Here are some cat dental care products that can be used to prevent dental disease in cats.

Feline Greenies Adult Dental Cat Treats for Clean Teeth and Fresh Breath. These cat treats are formulated especially for dental care in older cats. This cat treat has less than two calories per treat and hence is a healthy treat that can be consumed by cats every day.

The chicken-flavored cat treats are nutritious and support overall health. Plus, they have a unique texture that promotes dental health by removing buildup from the tooth surface.

Based on 33,954 customer reviews, this product has an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Owners claim their cats have healthy teeth and no more bad breath after using these dental care treats.

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Vet’s Best Dental Care Finger Wipes Reduces Plaque & Freshens Breath. This product is for cat parents who have a difficult time brushing their cat’s teeth. These dental wipes are perfect and will fit onto your fingers, with which you can gently wipe your cat’s teeth whenever needed.

These gentle wipes reduce plaque in your cat’s mouth and improve bad breath issues. This dental care product has the goodness of natural ingredients like grapeseed oil, green tea extract, and spearmint oil for the best results.

Based on 2,254 global ratings, this dental care product has an average of 4.3 out of 5 stars. Pet owners love that they are easy to use and effective.

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VetriScience Perio Support Teeth Cleaning Powder. A clinically tested supplement powder for dental care. This dental cleaning supplement comes in a powder form that can be added to your cat’s daily meals.

This powder is proven to reduce dental plaque by 20% and dental tartar by 28% after daily use for a month. This highly effective product contains natural zeolites, probiotics, and essential nutrients that provide nutrition inside out.

Based on the feedback from 3,744 customers, this dental care product has an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. Customers state that this is the most trusted dental care product for their cats and is highly effective.

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Arm & Hammer for Pets Fresh Breath Dental Kit for Cats. The most effective and basic way of ensuring dental health in cats is through this dental kit of toothbrushes and toothpaste specially designed for cats.

The toothbrush’s bristles are suitable for cats’ teeth and gums. At the same time, the toothpaste is infused with natural ingredients and baking soda for the best cleaning. Use this product 2-3 times a week for the best results.

Based on 7,107 customer feedback, this product has an average of 4 out of 5 stars. Customers state that it’s a value-for-money product that is easy to use and effective.

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Oxyfresh Premium Vet Formulated Pet Dental Kit. This quality all-in-one dental care kit comes highly recommended by vets. It comprises cat-specific toothpaste, toothbrushes, and dental gel.

The dental gel and paste are formulated with natural ingredients and free of fragrance. Combining the entire combo will provide the most extensive clean-up for your cat’s teeth.

Based on 2,136 customer reviews, it has an average rating of 4.2 out of 5. Customers state that they have noticed visible results with the first use itself for their cats.

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Plaque Off for Cats Special Feline Formulation. An all-in-one breath freshener, plaque remover, and supplement powder specially formulated for feline health. This powder can be added to your cat’s daily meals. Plus, it is boosted with brewer’s yeast, that aids in digestion.

You can expect evident results after 2 to 3 weeks of use. The supplement is very easy to use as it comes in the form of powder. However, it has a specific taste that cats may need time to get used to.

Based on 843 customer feedback, this product has an average of 4.3 out of 5 stars. Cat owners highly recommend this product for bad breath issues in cats.

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